Nixon in his efforts against desegregation was not without precedence There was Irene Morgan, who refused to give up her seat in Middlesex County, Virginia. Her case, which was eventually decided by the Supreme Court, was successfully argued by two Afrikan American lawyers, William Hastie, and his former student and co-counsel, Thurgood Marshall. In 1946, the U.S, Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Virginia's state law enforcing segregation on interstate buses was unconstitutional.
Then there was Sarah Keys, another woman who refused to be unseated and was arrested. In 1953, Keys, a Women's Army Corps private filed a complaint with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The ICC broke with its historic adherence to the the “separate but equal” doctrine and interpreted the non-discrimination language of the Interstate Commerce Act as banning the segregation of black passengers in buses traveling across state lines. The complaint was argued by Julius Winfield Robertson and his mentee and partner, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, who herself was a former WAC who had also experienced Jim Crow in her bus travels during World War II. Keys v. Carolina Coach Company represents a milestone in the legal battle for civil rights. The November 1955 ruling was publicly announced six days before Rosa Parks' historic ride. These rulings, both in the case of Morgan and Keys, were concerned with interstate travel; however, they had little effect on intrastate travel.
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger when ordered to do so by bus driver James F. Blake. For Nixon, Parks was a perfect candidate--she was quiet, demure, soft-spoken, a hard worker, a church member, married, and already an activist: she was an NAACP member. After years of working with Parks, Nixon was certain that she was the perfect candidate to challenge the discriminatory seating policy.
At the time of her arrest, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. She had also recently attended in Tennessee, the Highlander Folk School, a center for training activists for workers' rights and racial equality. Still, Nixon had to persuade Parks to lead the fight. Rosa, after consulting with her mother and husband, accepted the challenge. Parks' act of defiance and her courage to confront the consequences of her decision would make her an international icon of resistance.